The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation have released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom. I have closely followed this Index since it was first released in 1995. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the United States has fallen once again. This is another reflection of the worsening state of our polity – a decline for which, in my opinion, George Bush and the Republicans bear some responsibility and Barack Obama and the Democrats bear even more.
The United States has fallen significantly from a high of the 5th most economically free country in the world with a 81.2 in 2006 and 2007 – when it was classified as free – to the 10th most free country with a 76.3 in 2012 – now being classified merely as mostly free.
One way to think about the United States’s situation is by comparing it to Canada’s. In the late 90s, the US would rank much higher than Canada, usually rating 15 to 20 ranks higher. For example, in 1997, the US ranked 8, whereas Canada ranked 26. I would sneer at our northern neighbors, with their socialized medicine and a population which seemed to deride capitalism almost as much as they resented the U.S.
But times have changed. It took me a while to accept it, but Stephen Harper’s relative fiscal conservatism has made Canada an economically freer place, despite their more socialized medicine. Canada is now ranked 6, with the US at 10. Even though Canada’s government spending is awful (ranking 135 in the world), it has been improving, and combined with its other strengths, it makes Canada a relatively free place economically.
Another commonwealth country that looks strong is Australia.